ABC's of Fire Extinguishers

Every home and business should be equipped with several fire extinguishers. They should be located throughout the house; in the kitchen area, garage, basement, upstairs and close to your exit doors in case of fire.

 

Using the correct type of fire extinguisher is essential. All extinguishers must be labeled by the manufacturer with a rating for the class of fire the extinguisher is used to fight.

There are two methods of labeling portable fire extinguishers. The first method uses specific colored geometric shapes with the class letter inside the shape. The second method is a picture-symbol for easier selection and safer use of the extinguisher. The letters A,B,C are standard designation for the three most common classes of fires.

A: is for agriculture. Fires involving material; such as wood, paper or textiles are Class A fires. The picture symbol is a wastebasket and wood.

B: is for bomb. Fires involving flammable liquid are Class B fires. The picture-symbol is a fuel can.

C: is for current. Class C fires are essentially Class A or B fires involving energized electrical equipment. A Class C rating confirms that the extinguishing agent is nonconductive. The picture-symbol is an electric cord and outlet.These symbols represent Class ABC fire types. If you are purchasing an extinguisher look for all three symbols for an all purpose extinguisher.

 

There are two additional classes of fire extinguishers:

D: is for combustible metal. Class D extinguishers are typically found in industrial applications.

K: is for commercial kitchen use and is specifically designed for grease fires.

Not all fires are the same, and they are classified according to the type of fuel that is burning. If you use the wrong type of fire extinguisher on the wrong class of fire, you can, in fact, make matters worse. It is therefore very important to under stand the four different classifications.

HOW FIRES START

HOW FIRES ARE CLASSIFIED

FUEL – Fuel can be any combustible material – solid, liquid or gas. Most solids and liquids become a vapor or gas before they will burn.

OXYGEN – The air we breathe is about 21 percent oxygen. fire only needs an atmosphere with at least 16 percent oxygen.

HEAT – Heat is the energy necessary to increase the temperature of the fuel to a point where sufficient vapors are given off for ignition to occur.

CHEMICAL REACTION - A chain reaction can occur when the three elements of fire are present in the proper conditions and proportions. Fire occurs when this rapid oxidation, or burning takes place.

Take any one of these factors away, and the fire cannot occur or will be extinguished if it was already burning.

CLASS A: Ordinary combustibles or fibrous material, such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber and some plastics.

CLASS B: Flammable or combustible liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, paint, paint thinners and propane.

CLASS C: Energized electrical equipment, such as appliances, switches, panel boxes and power tools.

CLASS D: Certain combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, potassium and sodium. These metals burn at high temperatures and give off sufficient oxygen to support combustion. They may react violently with water or other chemicals, and must be handled with care.

HOW FIRES START

Class A — Ordinary combustibles: Keep storage and working areas free of trash Place oily rags in covered containers.

Class B — Flammable liquids or gases: Don’t refuel gasoline-powered equipment in a confined space, especially in the presence of an open flame such as a furnace or water heater.

Don’t refuel gasoline-powered equipment while it’s hot. Keep flammable liquids stored in tightly closed, self-closing, spill-proof containers. Pour from storage drums only what you’ll need. Store flammable liquids away from spark-producing sources. Use flammable liquids only in well-ventilated areas.

Class C — Electrical equipment: Look for old wiring, worn insulation and broken electrical fittings. Report any hazardous condition to your supervisor.

 

Prevent motors from overheating by keeping them clean and in good working order. A spark from a rough-running motor can ignite the oil and dust in it. Utility lights should always have some type of wire guard over them. Heat from an uncovered light bulb can easily ignite ordinary combustibles. Don’t misuse fuses. Never install a fuse rated higher than specified for the circuit. Investigate any appliance or electrical equipment that smells strange. Unusual odors can be the first sign of fire. Don’t overload wall outlets. Two outlets should have no more than two plugs.

 

Class D — Flammable metals:

Flammable metals such as magnesium and titanium generally take a very hot heat source to ignite; however, once ignited are difficult to extinguish as the burning reaction produces sufficient oxygen to support combustion, even under water.

 

In some cases, covering the burning metal with sand can help contain the heat and sparks from the reaction. Class D extinguishing agents are available. If you are planning a research project using a large amount of flammable metals you should consider purchasing a five or ten pound container of Class-D extinguishing agent as a precaution.

 

Pure metals such as potassium and sodium react violently(even explosively)with water and some other chemicals, and must be handled with care. Generally these metals are stored in sealed containers in a non-reactive liquid to prevent decay(surface oxidation)from contact with moisture in the air.

 

White phosphorus is air-reactive and will burn/explode on contact with room air. It must be kept in a sealed container with a non-reactive solution to prevent contact with air.

HOW TO EXTINGUISH SMALL FIRES

Class A - Extinguish ordinary combustibles by cooling the material below its ignition temperature and soaking the fibers to prevent re-ignition. Use pressurized water, foam or multi-purpose(ABC-rated)dry chemical extinguishers. DO NOT USE carbon dioxide or ordinary(BC-rated)dry chemical extinguishers on Class A fires.

 

Class B - Extinguish flammable liquids, greases or gases by removing the oxygen, preventing the vapors from reaching the ignition source or inhibiting the chemical chain reaction. Foam, carbon dioxide, ordinary(BC-rated)dry chemical, multi-purpose dry chemical, and halon extinguishers may be used to fight Class B fires.

 

Class C - Extinguish energized electrical equipment by using an extinguishing agent that is not capable of conducting electrical currents. Carbon dioxide, ordinary(BC-rated)dry chemical, multi-purpose dry chemical and halon* fire extinguishers may be used to fight Class C fires. DO NOT USE water extinguishers on energized electrical equipment.

 

*Even though halon is widely used, EPA legislation is phasing it out of use in favor of agents less harmful to the environment.

 

Class D - Extinguish combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium, potassium and sodium with dry powder extinguishing agents specially designated for the material involved.

In most cases, they absorb the heat from the material, cooling it below its ignition temperature.

 

NOTE: Multipurpose(ABC-rated)chemical extinguishers leave a residue that can harm sensitive equipment, such as computers and other electronic equipment. Because of this, carbon dioxide or halon extinguishers are preferred in these instances because they leave very little residue.

 

ABC dry powder residue is mildly corrosive to many metals. For example, residue left over from the use of an ABC dry powder extinguisher in the same room with a piano can seriously corrode piano wires.

 

Carbon dioxide or halon extinguishers are provided for most labs and computer areas on campus.

HOW TO INDETIFY THE PROPER FIRE EXTINGUISHER

All ratings are shows on the extinguisher faceplate. Some extinguishers are marked with multiple ratings such as AB, BC and ABC. These extinguishers are capable of putting out more than one class of fire.

Class A and B extinguishers carry a numerical rating that indicates how large a fire an experienced person can safely put out with that extinguisher.

Class C extinguishers have only a letter rating to indicate that the extinguishing agent will not conduct electrical current. Class C extinguishers must also carry a Class A or B rating.

Class D extinguishers carry only a letter rating indicating their effectiveness on certain amounts of specific metals.

HOW TO USE A PORTABLE FIRE EXTINGUISHER

Remember the acronym, “P.A.S.S.”

P …… Pull the Pin.

A …… Aim the extinguisher nozzle at the base of the flames.

S …… Squeeze trigger while holding the extinguisher upright.

S …… Sweep the extinguisher from side to side, covering the the extinguishing agent.

 

Generally, you can tell with a glance which type an extinguisher is hanging on the wall, or in the cabinet, just by looking at its shape. Check the labels of the extinguishers in your area and note the color and shape/size of the extinguisher. This may help if someone runs in to help you fight a fire with the WRONG extinguisher(i.e. water on an electrical fire)- you can STOP them before they are injured or make matters worse!

 

ABC-rated multipurpose dry powder extinguishers are the most common , particularly in the corridors of academic buildings. They are almost always RED in color and have either a long narrow hose or no hose(just a short nozzle). These extinguishers are very light(5-25 lbs total weight)Halon extinguishers look virtually identical to ABC multipurpose dry chemical extinguishers. Most people have exchanged these Halon extinguishers out due to the Federal Ban on Halons, to the new replacement type called Halotron.

 

Water extinguishers are generally only found in the dormitories and are usually SILVER(crome-metal)in color, have a flat bottom, have a long narrow hose, are quite large(2-1/2 gallons). These should NEVER be USED ON ELECTRICAL FIRES. THIS COULD RESULT IN ELECTRICAL SHOCK AND EVEN DEATH.

 

CO 2 (carbon dioxide)extinguishers are generally red(often yellow around aircraft or on military sites), have a LARGE “tapered”; nozzle(horn), are VERY HEAVY(15-85 lbs.)-some CO 2 extinguishers for aircraft hangers or special industrial use are so large as to require roll-around carts to move them. These are all high-pressure cylinders.

 

Care should be used not to dropa CO 2 cylinder; if it is damaged it can punch a hole through the nearest wall(s)and end up on the other side of a room!(The containers are quite sturdy, but don’t abuse them.) CO 2 cylinders do not have a pressure gauge – they must be weighed to determine the amount of contents.

HOW TO USE AN EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN

A written, up-to-date Emergency Action Plan for your dorm/workplace is essential in case of emergency. Make sure you read and understand your building owners or facilities Emergency Action Plan

 

The plan should contain information about evacuation from the facility, including who is in charge of the evacuation.

 

Primary and secondary escape routes should be outlined for every area of the building. Since stairways are the primary escape route in multiple story buildings, they should not be used for any kind of storage.

 

Emergency Action Leaders should be assigned specific duties, such as verifying that everyone has been evacuated.

 

Pre-fire planning must clearly show the locations of the workstations of the disabled workers.

What is a Fire Extinguisher Used For?

Most people answer this question “to fight a fire”, but if you ask them what they will really do — it is RUN, get out of the building!       The Correct answer is:  To get you OUT of a burning room / building as safely as possible by –

 

1. making a path – using the (P.A.S.S method) so you have a fighting chance to get out.  (so, do you know where your extinguishers are located?)

2. making a path for a loved one or co-worker that is trapped (again using the P.A.S.S method).

Last, fight the fire (ONLY if you are comfortable in doing so).

What size extinguisher should you have?

2 1/2 lb  (4 seconds of coverage)  •  5 lb (22 seconds of coverage)  • 10 lb (44 seconds of coverage)

What are the types of fire extinguishers?

ABC Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishers

Best option for homes, offices, hallways, apartment buildings, vehicles, boats and RVs.

ABC Fire Extinguishers are “tri-class” or “multi-purpose” extinguishers which can be used on Class A, B, or C fires.

• Class A: Wood, Paper, cloth, trash, plastics (solids that are not metals).

• Class B: Flammable Liquids-Gasoline, oil, grease, acetone (includes flammable gases).

• Class C: Electrical Fires, Energized electrical equipment fires (anything that is plugged in).

 

Carbon Dioxide (Co2) Fire Extinguishers

Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguishers meet many hospital medical equipment requirements. Co2 Extinguishers are also used for mechanics and factories as they leave no residue.

Carbon Dioxide (Co2) Fire Extinguishers are used for class B flammable liquids fires as well as Class C Electrical fires as they are electrically non-conductive. Carbon Dioxide is a clean, non-contaminating, odorless gas.

• Class B: Flammable Liquids-Gasoline, oil, grease, acetone (includes flammable gases).

• Class C: Electrical Fires, Energized electrical equipment fires (anything that is plugged in).

 

Class D Fire Extinguishers

Class D Fire Extinguishers are mainly used for the aircraft industry, auto body shops, factories that work with metals, and other metal fire hazards.

Class D Fire Extinguishers are used for fighting class D Fires.

• Class D: Metal fires involving magnesium, sodium, potassium and sodium-potassium alloys.

 

Class K Fire Extinguishers

Class K Fire Extinguishers are ideal in kitchens and in the restaurant industry.

Class K Fire Extinguishers are used for fighting class A and class K fires.

• Class A: Wood, Paper, cloth, trash, plastics (solids that are not metals).

• Class K: Commercial Deep Fat Fryers (cooking oil fires).

 

Halon Fire Extinguishers

Halon Fire Extinguishers are recommended for protection of delicate, sensitive and expensive computers, electrical equipment, tapes and film, automotive and aircraft engines, laboratory chemicals and equipment. Halon Extinguishers can also be used in bedrooms, home offices, home kitchens, cars, and garages.

Halon Extinguishers are used for fighting class B and class C fires (And sometimes A Fires). Halon uses a liquefied gas, pressurized with nitrogen, which discharges as a vapor causing no cold or static shock and no impairment of the operator’s vision.

Halon Extinguishers size 1.25 lb, 2.5 lb, 3 lb and 5 lb have a BC rating, and can be used on class b and c Fires. (Amerex Models A344T, C352TS, C354TS, and B355T)

• Class B: Flammable Liquids-Gasoline, oil, grease, acetone (includes flammable gases).

• Class C: Electrical Fires, Energized electrical equipment fires (anything that is plugged in).

Halon Extinguishers size 9 lb, 13 lb, and 17 lb have an ABC rating, and can be used on class a, b, and c Fires. (Amerex Models B369, B371 and 361)

• Class A: Wood, Paper, cloth, trash, plastics (solids that are not metals).

• Class B: Flammable Liquids-Gasoline, oil, grease, acetone (includes flammable gases).

• Class C: Electrical Fires, Energized electrical equipment fires (anything that is plugged in).

Halon Extinguishers are USCG Approved for Marine/boat use with Bracket listed on UL Label (except model A344T)

 

Halotron Extinguishers

Halotron Extinguishers are ideal for data centers, military electronics, laboratories, warehouses, manufacturing plants, general office areas, computer rooms, control rooms, vehicles, boats, and other areas with electronic equipment. Halotron Extinguishers can also be used in bedrooms, home offices, home kitchens, cars, and garages.

Halotron Extinguishers are used for fighting class B and class C (and sometimes class A) fires near electronic and data equipment.

Halotron Extinguishers size 1.4 lb, 2.5 lb, and 5 lb have a BC rating, and can be used on class b and c Fires. (Amerex Models A384T, B385TS, B386T)

• Class B: Flammable Liquids-Gasoline, oil, grease, acetone (includes flammable gases).

• Class C: Electrical Fires, Energized electrical equipment fires (anything that is plugged in).

Halotron Extinguishers size 11 lb and 15.5 lb have an ABC rating, and can be used on class a, b, and c Fires. (Amerex Models 397 and 398)

• Class A: Wood, Paper, cloth, trash, plastics (solids that are not metals).

• Class B: Flammable Liquids-Gasoline, oil, grease, acetone (includes flammable gases).

• Class C: Electrical Fires, Energized electrical equipment fires (anything that is plugged in).

Halotron Extinguishers size 5 lb, 11 lb, and 15.5 lb are USCG Approved for Marine/Boat use with Bracket listed on UL Label (Amerex Models B386T, 397 and 398)

 

High Performance Extinguishers

High Performance Extinguishers are the ultimate choice in fire extinguishers for high hazard, frequent use and extreme environmental applications.

High Performance Extinguishers fight high hazard fires dealing with flammable liquids, oil, and gas. They fight class B and C fires (and sometimes A fires).

The following Models fight class B & C Fires: (568, 595, 580, 584, 569, 599, 566, 591)

• Class B: Flammable Liquids-Gasoline, oil, grease, acetone (includes flammable gases).

• Class C: Electrical Fires, Energized electrical equipment fires (anything that is plugged in).

The following Models fight class A, B & C fires. (models 594, 581, 567, 582, 592, 564, 589)

• Class A: Wood, Paper, cloth, trash, plastics (solids that are not metals):

• Class B: Flammable Liquids-Gasoline, oil, grease, acetone (includes flammable gases).

• Class C: Electrical Fires, Energized electrical equipment fires (anything that is plugged in).

 

Marine Fire Extinguishers

Marine Fire Extinguishers are United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved and carry a BC and sometimes an A rating.

• Class A: Wood, Paper, cloth, trash, plastics (solids that are not metals).

• Class B: Flammable Liquids-Gasoline, oil, grease, acetone (includes flammable gases).

• Class C: Electrical Fires, Energized electrical equipment fires (anything that is plugged in).

 

Water Extinguishers

Water Extinguishers use a stream of water to fight mainly class A Fires. Most commonly used in the Medical Field.

Model Amerex 240 – 2.5 Gal. Water Pressure is the best option for emergency first response vehicles as it fights class A fires.

• Class A: Wood, Paper, cloth, trash, plastics (solids that are not metals).

Model Amerex B272NM is the best option for MRI rooms as it is non-toxic and non magnetic. B272 fights class A and Class C Fires.

• Class A: Wood, Paper, cloth, trash, plastics (solids that are not metals).

• Class C: Electrical Fires, Energized electrical equipment fires (anything that is plugged in).

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